Better Broadband Better Lives

Q&A With Stephen Liu, Architect of Cisco System's 'MyPlanNet' Broadband Computer Game

in Net Neutrality/NTIA/Recovery Act by

WASHINGTON, November 2, 2009 - Stephen Liu, the designer and architect of Cisco System’s myPlanNet and a senior marketing manager at Cisco, discussed the company's new computer game that puts the common man in the shoes of the broadband executive. Edited excerpt of his interview with Winter Casey, Reporter,, are as follows:

Q: What sparked the development of myPlanNet?

A: This was actually a result of an internal contest to inspire innovation in marketing.

For me, it was a cool and fun way to illustrate just how far the communications have changed over 25 years and how people's lives have shifted as a result. Remember life before cell phones or when you connected to the Internet on demand vs. it just always being on? We had some fun reminiscing on those nostalgic times when creating this.

Q: How long has it been in the works? It was released in October, correct?

A: This has been a side project for a small team of people at Cisco for about one year.

Q: Why did Cisco do the project? Did it by any chance want to get at some of the most pressing issues/debates at the time?

A: There are a lot of reasons. For one, it's educational. We have over one million people affiliated with the Cisco Learning Network. This game helps weave together a lot of the technology and acronyms they are studying into a historical narrative and also puts it together from a business perspective. Many students enjoy this game because it helps them see a "bigger picture" in a fun and interactive way.

Secondly, no other vendor can really showcase the end-to-end story here. The game shows how Cisco has been a part of 25 years of IP [internet protocol] thought leadership. This is more than just networking, it's about evolving business from simple connectivity into experience providers. You evolve from businesses models based on data access speeds and feeds into new applications that depend on the data center such as IP Video, Collaboration, Cloud Computing, 4G mobile. Depending on where you are in the world, you can identify yourself somewhere on this evolutionary timeline and see how far you have come and get visibility into what lies ahead. It helps bring some of the new services to life.

Lastly, as you evolve, so does the city and the lives of the inhabitants. You can listen to the customers as they deliver testimonials how the way they work, live, learn, and play change over time.

Q: It seems like a very interesting game topic in light of the network neutrality debate in Washington regarding internet access and all of the attention being placed on getting out quality broadband. Were these factors?

A: It wasn't a main driving factor, but it's part of the game. There are factors that come into play when you discover new technologies such as user-based content or IP Video and cloud based services. There are some things you have to deal with when faced with loads generated by over-the-top type of traffic. It's only one piece of the puzzle, though.

Q: Is the game meant to be educational?

A: Yes! Edutainment!

Winter covered technology policy issues for five-and-a-half years as a reporter for the National Journal Group. She has worked for USA Today, the Washington Times, the Magazine Group, the State Department’s International Visitor’s Program, and the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. She also taught English at a university in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

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